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How to Survive a Bad Boss

By Mary Brandel
January 23, 2006 12:00 PM ET
Despite the positive attitude, Wade's first seven months were "absolute hell," he recounts. The boss was a classic crisis manager who would inevitably find reasons several times a week to call "emergency" meetings at 4:30 p.m. for the entire IT management group -- and then not even stay for the entire meeting. "The meetings would run three hours, and this guy would leave at 6:15," Wade says.

Wade's interpretation was that the boss -- an ex-salesman -- didn't feel competent to solve problems that came up and figured if he got all the managers together, they'd get the problems fixed.

One day, Wade took a stand. He walked into the boss's office and said, "When you're not there providing leadership, we come out of these meetings without much more [direction] than what we went in with. So next time there's a crisis meeting, I'll have a letter in my hand, and it'll be my resignation."

The tactic worked. After that, when the boss called a meeting, it was better planned and better timed, and he was there to provide guidance. "It was almost like by channeling the guy, he became more effective," Wade says. The manager was eventually let go, and Wade became CIO at the hospital.

Despite Wade's success, working for a bad boss usually means either accepting the situation for what it is and behaving accordingly, or planning your exit strategy, C2's Glen says.

"Can bosses get better? Sure," he says. "They do so because they discover new things and realize how badly they've been doing. But relying on that is like waiting to win the lottery. You can't teach your boss."

Have your own horror story? Head to the Bad Boss Blog, where readers post their own experiences, and our experts offer advice on coping.

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Editor's pick from our archives: Are You a Scary Boss?

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer in Newton, Mass. Contact her at

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